What is the theme of poem, "Roller Skate Man," by Raymond Souster.Theme

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In reading the poem, "Roller Skate Man," by Raymond Souster, the comparison of the man on the "skating board" and those he passes are not too far removed from one another, according to the author. This poem uses strong visual images to share the poet's ideas with his audience.

The "roller skate man" is very different physically than those walking past him. His head is noticeably larger in proportion to his body, which is smaller, propped on stumpy legs. He gets around by using something similar to a skateboard, but engineered especially for him so that he can, with gloved hands, propel himself along Queen Street.

As the little man moves, he passes "silk stockinged legs" and "extravagant pleats," implying that his sidewalk companions are successful, and at first glance, seemingly above the circumstances of the "skater." However, as the poet continues, he describes the small man as "flotsam," something unimportant, especially that which floats in the water after a ship is wrecked; then he compares the man to the "successful" masses that pass him, referring to them as "jetsam," that which is intentionally thrown into the water to remove weight from a ship in danger of sinking.

The last three lines are an extended metaphor:

"Steering through familiar waters" may well put the "flotsam" and the "jetsam" on the same level. Both are in the water, an undesirable place to be, but whereas the flotsam (little man) is there because circumstances beyond his control have made it so, the jetsam (the other people) have been intentionally discarded. Both are wet; their circumstances may be different, but the result of where they find themselves is the same.

In terms, then, of a theme, I believe the author is stating if one looks closely, those who survive are the ones who take a bad situation and do the best they can to make it work for them. Those who are truly unfortunate are those who have no sense of where they are, and therefore, have no idea that they need to take steps to improve or protect their daily lives.

The poet, Raymond Souster, is a man who for fifty years as a writer, has maintained a "curious form of anonymity." Perhaps he can feel an affinity for the man on the skates.

Ignorance may be bliss for the silk-clad legs and pleats; but for the man who seems to be at a disadvantage, he is aware of his disabilities, and has turned them around as best as he can to survive and keep up with the rest of the world: while all of them are in "familiar waters." The others, perhaps, are unaware that "we are all one phone call from our knees."*


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